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Hot Hitting at the Hot Corner, Urshela Improves Offensively in Akron

Hot Hitting at the Hot Corner, Urshela Improves Offensively in Akron

| On 22, Apr 2014

When a player finds out that they won’t be moving up to the next level in the minors that can be disheartening. This can bring a sense of bitterness and resentment towards the team because they feel like they deserve to be promoted. This isn’t the case for hot hitting third basemen Giovanny Urshela.

Urshela was named Indians Minor League Player of the Week this morning for April 14-20. During the week, Urshela hit .353 (6-17), with a home run, nine runs batted in and a .950 OPS in five games. He had back-to-back multi-hit performances on April 17 and 18 at Bowie, including a game-winning, two-run single in the top of the eighth inning last Thursday.

Urshela was signed by the Cleveland Indians as a non-drafted free agent back in 2008. He spent 2009 with the Indians Arizona league, and then broke out with the Indians Low-A Mahoning Valley in 2010. So far in his time with the Indians, Urshela has struggled offensively. He likes to swing freely at the plate, and doesn’t take a lot of walks. From 2010-2013, Urshela had a total of 56 walks and 209 strike outs. His plate discipline was obviously an issue and something that definitely needed to be improved upon.

His progress through the system has been a bit different compared to the traditional player development. The Indians have not been very deep when it comes to third base, and this has caused Urshela’s premature promotions. He continued to struggle with his plate discipline in each of his stops in Low-A ball. Once he reached Carolina, he finally started to find his swing as he had a very good season there. At the end of 2012, he had a slash line of .278/.209/.755 with 14 home runs in 475 plate appearances. He was then promoted to Double-A Akron prior to the 2013 season.

While in Akron, Urshela continued to work on his plate discipline as his strike out rate dropped from 12.6% to 10.3%. It seemed that he may be starting to figure things out at the plate, but that wasn’t enough to promote him to Triple-A Columbus for the 2014 season. As he spends his second season with the Double-A Akron RubberDucks, Urshela is now here to prove himself not only as a player, but as a leader as well.

“I’m trying to be a good teammate with everybody here,” Urshela said. “Being friendly with all the players, Latin players, American players and the coaches, everybody. I’m feeling good with all my team right now.”

His leadership is noticed by more than just his teammates. Manager Dave Wallace also has high expectations of Urshela.

“Urshela really seems to be putting things together. We’ll look for him to play a leadership role on and off the field,” says Wallace.

With him coming back for his second year, Wallace understands that sometimes players can be upset about returning, but he knows that Urshela wants to make the most of his situation.

“He’s someone who’s very open to talk to new guys,” says Wallace. “Sometimes those guys keep to themselves and are bitter they’re here for the second year, but not Gio. He’s helped out the first year, the young guys, a lot.”

Along with his leadership, Urshela has been doing damage at the plate. Through 16 gameshe leads the RubberDucks with three home runs, four doubles, 30 total bases and 10 runs scored, and ranks second among all Indians farmhands with 12 runs batted in. The interesting thing to see is that he already has 4 walks compared to his 12 strike outs. He seems to be seeing the ball better this year, and it’s showing in his offense.

“I’m working my strike zone, so I feel better when I’m hitting.”

This past off-season, Urshela worked on building some strength. Coming into this season, he has put on 22 pounds of muscle weight. This extra weight that he has put on has obviously been playing a part of his early success at the plate.

“I worked a lot this off-season to get more weight. I feel more powerful,” explains Urshela on his muscle weight gain.

Along with his hot hitting, Urshela plays a stellar defense at third base. He is knowns as a major league quality defender already, with very soft hands. What makes Urshela so good right now is because he is hitting so well and he puts up a great defense. Part of the reason why the RubberDucks are doing well this season is because of how great their defense is. Having Urshela manning the hot corner along with other teammates such as Francisco Lindor, Tony Wolters, Joe Wendle, Tyler Naquin and more, their defense is solid enough to give their team a chance to win every day.

Wallace has noticed the changes that Urshela has made. “The focus, the adjustments he’s made, is really putting him in a good spot to do some damage offensively. As long as he stays focused and carry’s that energy out there on defense. There’s not a play he can’t make out there,” explains Wallace.

If Urshela continues to build off what he has done so far this season, it could only be a matter of time before he’s bumped up to Triple-A Columbus. If his hot hitting, and stellar defense continues, the possibilities are endless for Urshela.

The RubberDucks are now 8-7 after a win against the Bowie Baysox on Saturday, April 18. They’ll start a series against Trenton on April 21, and then come home for a two series homestand against the Altoona Curve and the Birmingham Barons.

Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer